You probably underestimate your muscles. In fact, almost everyone does. While everyone knows, for example, that muscles are important for function-activities such as walking, climbing and lifting – few people realize how important muscles are to feeling.
If you haven’t noticed this mood-muscle connection yourself, don’t worry; it is only a recent discovery. Amazingly, the entire scientific community remained in the dark until around 2003 (1) when a Copenhagen-based research team reported a remarkable discovery: working muscles secrete tiny chemical messengers called myokines that exert potent on organ function, including brain function (2).
Through the actions of myokines, muscle tissue communicates directly with the brain about its activity, triggering a cascade of biological responses that improve memory, learning, and mood (see Figure 1 below). This newly discovered mechanism implies that a person engaged in physical activities that build and maintain healthy muscle tissue can expect to experience a range of cognitive and mental benefits. Recent clinical trials show precisely this effect (3).
If anyone ever accused you of being complicated, they really had no idea. Although you can’t tell by looking at yourself in the mirror, the body you see reflected is made up of over 100 trillion cells. The cells are tiny; if you put cells side by side in a police queue, for example, about 200 of them would fit in a single millimeter.
But this is only the beginning of the miracle we are calling you. Every cell in your body is a thriving civilization unto itself, populated by hundreds of millions of proteins and other molecules, each possessing a work ethic that would put John Henry to shame. At our size, your cellular citizens fly at the speed of fighter jets, each busy performing hundreds, if not thousands, of vital functions per second. They must maintain this breakneck pace uninterrupted for you to survive, totaling billions of trillions of chemical activities performed with precision every day.
If you somehow possess a superhuman imagination capable of conceiving this cellular cacophony, you might ask yourself a question: what is powering it all? Remarkably, the enormous energy required to run your cells ultimately comes from the oxygen you breathe and the food you eat.
The latter seems important to remember the next time you don’t feel like eating your vegetables. Digested to the lowest denominator, nutrients are converted by mitochondria – arguably the VIP citizens of your cells – into billions of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules per minute. While even an ordinary cell can house thousands of these energy-producing mitochondria, muscle cells are mitochondrial hives, possessing tens or even hundreds of thousands to fuel their operations. Once made, ATP is regaled by your cells like exhausted runners devouring PowerBars at the Boston Marathon finish line.
Emerging almost impossible from this molecular chaos is you. Every thought, feeling and action results from and depends on this ceaseless cycle of energy demand and energy production. And if it’s not apparent from this description, the better your cells function at the small level, the better you feel and function at the big level.
This brings us back to resistance training. Given the vital role your muscles play in energy production and brain function, perhaps it’s time to start appreciating resistance training and muscle building as being useful for more than just athletes and fitness enthusiasts. magazine templates.
Using your muscles against resistance, for example, is much more effective at strengthening your bones than any calcium supplement (4). Regular muscle activity also improves insulin resistance (the cause of diabetes and many other metabolic conditions) better than any prescription drug.
And now we know that stimulating muscle tissue with resistance training has emotional effects that rival those of conventional antidepressants and psychotherapies (3). Recent neuroscience suggests that we evolved our brains for one main reason: to move (5). Counterintuitive to our traditional preoccupation with thought, the main function of the human brain is to coordinate complex movements (this is probably why we have brains while giant but stationary redwoods do not).
By recognizing this intimate connection between the brain and movement, the biological basis of the mind-muscle relationship becomes clear and the importance of resistance training for optimal physical and emotional health becomes indisputable.
Source: Thomas Rutledge